Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Venus Flytrap

Tuesday June 5th was the much heralded day of the Transit of Venus.  Eight years ago, I tried to see it using a pin-hole camera mechanism but the sun was elusive.  This time, the sun was definitely on sabbatical and so I watched the start (and the end) of the phenomenon live via internet.  During the less interesting part, I went to play bridge at the club.  The date of the next transit, you ask?  2117.

While we're on the subject, The Venus Flytrap is a carnivorous plant that offers its victim a nice juicy taste of nectar and then closes the trap around the hapless insect.  The proffering of gifts followed by springing a trap is a well-known ploy in bridge.  Unfortunately, this time I was the incautious victim.

You'd think I'd been around long enough and read sufficient books to be wary of Greek gifts. Well, maybe at the start of a session.  But by the time the last board hit the table, and with several hours more work to do late that night, my brain just wasn't up to it.  But it's my journalistic duty to give credit where it's due, in this case to our senior Grand Life Master, Bill Hunter.  He dangled a lifeline in front of me and I grabbed it!

My partner was my GNT teammate Leo in our first matchpoint event as a pair.   And as noted, it was the last board, having achieved a good score on the first board.  Spirits were high, although energy was low.

1♣ promised only two clubs.  The lead was ♣A followed by ♠A and then ♣K, although it's possible that South played the ♣Q at trick three which would have told me that he had at least 13 hcp.  I regret to say that I cannot remember.  It had already been a long day.  The first question is whether to pitch a diamond or to ruff.  There are probably good arguments for the pitch, especially at teams, but I chose to ruff.  There wasn't much to choose between the finessing positions of the red suits.  But which type of finesse should I use.  Running the ten has the advantage that if the finesse appears to be working, we can try it again and that's good enough to make game.  On the other hand, if the first finesse loses, it would have been nice to retain the T in order to get back to try the other red suit.  Was there any way to guess?  Nothing significant, I felt.  For whatever reason, I chose to start by running the diamond ten.  If it lost, I'd almost certainly have to try to drop the HQ.

It did lose and I was well on my way to making my contract.  After some thought, Bill returned – a club!  I ruffed, winning the trick in my hand. Stop right there (I didn't).  Why is this wily old fox making life so easy for me?  A moment's thought would have made it all clear.  He had the doubleton Q of hearts!  Unfortunately, I didn't stop to think and the result was down one and a poor score.  Many were in 3 only, making without any undue effort.

Whether it's an insect and nectar, Trojans and a wooden horse, Snow White and an apple, or an act of apparent generosity at the bridge table, the lesson is the same: don't trust that gift from your adversary!

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